The top three WORST things you can do as a PR graduate

People can be their own worst enemies sometimes, and new grads are no exception. In fact, I believe new graduates can be very hard on themselves. After finally getting over the stress of your final year at university, you’ve now ticked that academic box of (hopefully!) success and have been firmly thrust into a dauntingly big pond. *Hint: You are the little fish.

There’s an awful lot of competition out there and everyone is vying for attention; so, rather than adding to the swathes of articles/blogs/columns touting what you *should* be doing, I have made a list of the top three worst things a grad can do to damage their chances and nailing that sought-after role.
1) Assume you have nothing left to learn

This is key. Don’t be arrogant and assume that now you’ve graduated or attended a prestigious school that you’ve got nothing left to learn. PR degrees have become increasingly popular over the last few years and although some of them are very good (I like to think my MSc was), you don’t need one to start a career in PR.  In fact, you don’t need a degree at all.

Yes, you’ve earned that certificate saying you know about your subject but knowing the theory for why something works doesn’t always translate into being able to do absolutely everything entailed in a role.That often only comes with hard graft and experience.

Employment is a learning curve but common areas for personal growth once in a PR role include:

  • Phone skills and ‘selling in’ to journalists.
  • Email Etiquette for different stakeholders depending on your/your agency/client’s relationship with the recipient.
  • Technological capabilities – There is a HUGE number of programs and tools out there that you won’t have had access to whilst as a student.
  • Client management
  • Confidence in your abilities – This is something that comes with time but being a new hire and a new entrant to the industry understandably comes with a bit of insecurity and if you’re like me that means you might overthink things on occasion. Trust in yourself and and don’t be afraid to ask for help/support/a second pair of eyes.

2) Sell yourself short

That being said, don’t let yourself feel that you need a degree from a prestigious college to be successful, or that you need to live up to your peers’ achievements or that you need to have all these skills going in. Without sounding trite, everyone has their own journey and although yes it might feel frustrating to feel like you’re struggling, good employers will make a point to support new hires in building these skills. After all, it’s a win-win.

It’s a balancing act of acknowledging your areas for improvement and demonstrating the confidence, initiative and passion for the industry you want to succeed in. A lot of the time it’ll really come down to being willing to learn so have confidence in yourself and go in to interviews with a positive mindset.

 

3) Disengage from your personal brand 

This is something I will openly admit that I personally struggled with once I started working. Managing all of my personal branding and research on top of a jam-packed professional day was difficult to adjust to, particularly given that I was also battling long commutes and a landlord with a vendetta against modern technology…

Seriously… no wifi?! How is a girl supposed to connect with the world?!

It should come as no surprise that my mobile data plan was wiped out within days…

The first tip for countering this is to try taking some time out of your weekend to write. Depending on what you can juggle around, you can either write a post a week just giving updates or you can write a few posts and then schedule them to be published during the week whilst you’re at work – the latter being more successful in practice for us PR folks I think.

As for my second tip, it isn’t really what I’d call a tip but more of a tool.

*Disclaimer: If you haven’t come across ‘If this, Then that‘, prepare to have your mind blown!

IFTTT (as it’s more commonly known) is an online and mobile app that connects your platforms to each other and basically does what it says on the tin with very little in terms of faffing.

Once you’ve set up your preferences the way you like, the app will automatically respond to you doing ‘this’- ‘this’ being anything from uploading a picture to Instagram or posting a Tweet – by doing ‘that’ whether its sharing that photo on your blog (*See below) or sharing a blog post to Facebook.

It’s a great way to make sure you integrate all your online platforms so that your online profile is consistent and up to date.

Getting your proverbial ‘ducks’ in a row is really very simple with a little bit of planning and once you’ve managed it, it’s even easier to fire off those CVs, wow the recruiters, and nail that all important interview.

If you’d like to look at a more comprehensive list that relates to both senior and junior professionals, I highly recommed Edelman’s latest post.

 

 

 

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Are we oversharing on social media? #SOSM2015

Ever since the rise of social media, there has been a flare in stories of people being fired over their tweets, over their Instagram pictures, and over their Facebook posts.

A glance at the social networking privacy experiment weknowhwatyouredoing.com demonstrates the huge number of people who happily and publicly express their love for drugs, their hungover state or their hatred for their boss. Below is one of many examples (this one being particularly popular) which I feel clearly demonstrates both the power of social media – and the dangers of not being careful about what you post – to great effect.

Facebookoops

The rest is, as they say, history, ending (as you can see) with the swift firing of the employee in question.

Being online seems somehow to spur us to share aspects of our lives we would otherwise keep to ourselves but, until recently, few have looked into the reasons why.

Last year however, Jennifer Golbeck, Director of the Human-Computer Interaction Lab at the University of Maryland, outlined six reasons for our over-sharing and occasionally risky online behaviour as part of a feature for Psychology Today.

Firstly, “[People] begin to disassociate their online persona with their offline persona,” wrote Golbeck. This ‘Anonymity’ of course decreases the individual’s perceived risk of posting something they’d normally not say. This could be used for good reasons, such as for the pursuit of advice regarding a personal issue or concern on Reddit using a throwaway account (one which cannot be clearly linked to an offline individual), or for bad, as in the case of the rising number of social ‘Trolling’ cases, whereby an individual uses an online persona to harass and belittle someone else – often a celebrity, politician or public campaigner. Feminist cultural critic, Anita Sarkeesian, for example, was subject to death threats after releasing a new ‘Tropes VS Women in Video Games’ episode titled ‘Women as background decoration, part 2‘ last August.

This anonymity feeds into both Golbeck’s second reason of ‘Invisibility’, which allows people to feel they can say things because “the other person (or people) aren’t looking at the poster”; and third reason of ‘Filling in the other person’, as “missing verbal cues like tone and delivery as well as body language causes people to perceive the conversation as somehow “less real.”

Similarly, her fourth reason for oversharing also centres on the individual’s belief that ‘It’s not real’ as she hypothesises that “If we feel like we aren’t interacting in a real environment where there are real implications from our runawayactions, it can lead us to drop inhibitions.”

This belief can be exacerbated by the ‘Delayed communication’ of social media. Although electronic communication is incredibly fast (cue the term ‘instant messaging’), there is still opportunity to delay conversations, even if it’s just by pausing before responding.

This of course can result in lowered inhibitions as we may feel more free to overshare things that are personal because we can post it and then leave it, dealing with the reactions later. I know this was something I was personally guilty of during my teenage years, particularly when expressing my feelings to someone I liked.

FWhat I think we are aware of but choose to ignore is that everything we post on social media (and online in general) is added to our permanent digital record. Nothing is ever truly erasable from the internet and the last thing we would ever want (or ever consider for that matter) is that what we offhandedly post when we’re young (and perhaps a little bit stupid?) might come back and bite us in the butts when it comes to finding (and keeping) a job. Do we really want our personal brand (as discussed in this previous post) to be cluttered with depressing details of our past break-ups? or rammed with photo after photo of our drunken nights out?

inally, Golbeck proposes that social media’s perceived ‘Lack of authority’ plays a key part in why people might disassociate themselves from their online identity, causing them to blurt out something they would never would in real life, say, in front of an authority figure.

What I think we are aware of (but choose to ignore) is that everything we post on social media (and online in general) is added to our permanent digital record. Nothing is ever truly erasable from the internet and the last thing we would ever want (or ever consider for that matter) is that what we offhandedly post when we’re young (and perhaps a little bit stupid?) might come back and bite us in the butt when it comes to finding (and keeping) a job.

Do we really want our personal brand (as discussed in this previous post) to be cluttered with depressing details of our past break-ups? Do we really want future employers to see that during the years we were attending university (and beyond) our profiles are rammed full with photo after photo of our drunken nights out?

I certainly don’t!

Anyway, there certainly seems to be a lot of advice online about how to stop oversharing. To me though, it boils down to two key thoughts:

  • What does this post say about me?
  •  Do I really want people to be reading this?

I picture not only my mother reading it, but my partner, my boss, even just my friends. I picture meeting someone for the first time and their already knowing me because of something I’ve posted online, and their subsequent perception of me because of it. This could be great if they knew me from this blog, for example, or even from my radio appearances, but from a seemingly innocuous Facebook post or Tweet that I’ve probably forgotten I even posted? I’d rather not.

When you think ahead (particularly when you think of the worst case scenarios), oversharing becomes pretty scary, and what becomes scary is therefore pretty easy to avoid.

Building your PR portfolio: A cheat sheet for those without the opportunity of a student-led firm

Having a portfolio to take to interviews is a clear advantage for any budding graduate.

Having a portfolio that is brimming with great examples of work is no doubt better.

But when you are a student undertaking a Bachelors or Masters qualification on a course that doesn’t provide the opportunities to participate in a student-run PR firm, building a good portfolio can be a task which is easier said than done. For any student, finding the opportunities to gain experience (not to mention pieces for your portfolios) is a challenge, so I thought I’d put together a post containing a few potential starting points to consider.

1) University departments Every university (especially in the last few years) has made staffing cuts. However few are willing to let these cuts infringe on the quality of their marketing Therefore, is there a department looking to start (or that needs to start) using social media, or one which is actively searching to increase course/event attendees? Consider asking your lecturers or the Head of your course if they know of anyone who could benefit from your services.

2) Campus organisations Every university has a Student Union; a fact which every student becomes aware of after the first week of attendance (also known as Fresher’s Week). The Student Union is student-led (or graduate-led), and organises often bi-weekly (or even tri-weekly) events which require promotion. Similarly, university societies are always seeking to increase their membership and promote their events. Both are of course limited in terms of capital and so are often going to be jumping at the bit for support from someone who knows how to market and promote beyond the basics of Facebook and Twitter. Offer your services for free and use university tools to promote the event, and you’ll soon be both indispensable and with a portfolio brimming with good copy.

3) Small businesses Check out organisations in your area that you like or which have just opened to see if they could use some help. Not only are you building your experiences and portfolio, you’re also giving back to the community and helping support local business.

4) Not-for-Profit organisations Also giving back to the community, you could research local charities seeking to raise their public profile and increase support and/or donations. Create a list of organisations and contact them about the services you can give them, such as creating a media kit, writing press releases, or even improving their social media presence.

5) Public Organisations It’s pretty easy now thanks to the Internet (God bless you, Google!) to find the names of people working in the Communications Departments or Media Teams of public organisations such as your local Police station or Town/County Council. Make some enquiries and see if you can arrange a meeting to discuss whether there might be an opportunity to volunteer or intern within their team.

If they have the space (not all do) and you seem fairly capable of being of use, they’ll often help you figure something out; or at the very least, be able to point you in the direction of someone who can.

When arranging a specific project though, keep in mind that you need to:

  • Set up expectations right away including: what they require of you, how often you will be in communication with them/meeting times, and clear deadlines.
  • Don’t overcommit to work you won’t have the time or energy to do, as it can damage your (and your peers/university’s) reputation.

The main point I’m trying to make is:

A) Be proactive.

B) Think outside the box.

C) Get in early.

BBC Radio Leicester Take Two!

deerLast Friday, I made my second foray into the now-less-daunting world of Radio broadcast, which, although I feel I spoke less than during my first panel as there were more participants during the discussion than before, I believe I came across a lot more naturally due to being less like a deer in headlights.

I’m genuinely growing to love these panel discussions; not just because they provide the opportunity for a strong debate on something I am passionate about, but also because they are allowing me to improve my public speaking skills and presentation ability (which despite being areas I am pretty confident in, are always good to practice and keep honed).

If you’re interested in listening to our panel (consisting of myself; Political Lecturer, Alastair Jones; BBC Political Correspondent, Tim Parker; and, Chief Executive of the Electoral Reform Society, Katie Ghose) please follow the link (9.40 – 34.22) as we discuss whether there is ever such a thing as a wasted vote?

Dipping my toes into local radio

Who’d have thunk it, David Blunkett?! Yesterday, I made my radio debut!

AND I DIDN’T MESS IT UP!!!WOO

After being tweeted by local BBC Broadcast Assistant, Rob Watson (@Rob_Watson87) last Thursday, we had a quick phonecall where he mentioned that he was aware of my blogging and wanted me to take part in an interview panel with BBC presenter, Ben Jackson (standing in for the usual host, Jonathan Lampon, BBC Leicester’s Political Correspondent, Tim Parker, and De Montfort University Lecturer, Alastair Jones, regarding the General Election and, more specifically, the role social media will play in it.

It shouldn’t surprise anyone that I was nervous. Although I’ve trained as a journalist myself, speaking at a live event where people would actually be listening to what I had to say was….daunting to say the least.

What I found (to my surprise) was that, as well as my five year participation in De Montfort’s Politics Society meaning I actually had a pretty substantiated opinion and had learnt the skills to be able to articulate it well, I was also completely at ease in-studio (due in part to having been taught by several of Alastair’s colleagues during my degree which meant that I was blessed with someone in studio who anchormanat least I partially knew).

Therefore something which I had honestly been in two minds about over the weekend, turned out to be a thoroughly enjoyable and rewarding experience which if again offered (and I hope it might) I will no doubt jump at.

If you’d like to hear what I have to say, please click HERE and have a listen (from 9 mins – 35 mins).

*Forgive the pauses for thought. I’m working on that for next time.

Marketing ‘vermin’: Strategies to combat a plague-ridden reputation

sellings rats
Rats.

Not the easiest animal to convince people make good pets, but ones which I’ve found in the four or so years of owning them to be the cheekiest, most playful and surprisingly easiest small pet you could own.

A quick list of their benefits can include:

  1. Unlike Hamsters, Degus and Chinchillas, they’re not nocturnal and so will be awake when you are.
  2. Personality-wise they are a cross between a dog (playful, attentive, loyal) and a cat (wants cuddles/to be stroked, relaxed)
  3. Each rat has their own individual personality that can be developed depending on how you respond/act with them.
  4. Once you’ve gained their trust, they will consistently want your attention/to play/be stroked.
  5. They are very food-orientated as a species. No pet meets ‘the way to your heart is through your stomach’ mantra more than a rat.
  6. They are as clean as cats, especially if you litter-train them.
  7. They eat (or will at least try) pretty much anything (though high fat diet or citrus foods will have negative health effects).
  8. They grind their teeth together when happy (bruxing) and (when really happy/relaxed) they boggle their eyes.
  9. They’re both friendly and independent so bought in pairs or a trio, they will play with themselves when you’re doing other things.
  10. They are ridiculously intelligent. Check out the video below and see some of the many tricks you can teach them.

But, admitting to owning rats as pets does come with some interesting (and occasionally offensive) stereotypes – mainly born out of fear or even sheer ignorance.

rat

  • Assuming my home is filthy because of their presence?
  • Assuming they carry diseases like rabies and the plague (yes, as in the bubonic plague…which was carried by fleas.. not rats..)
  • I even had one classmate warn me that they could escape and attack me and my partner…

Don’t get me wrong, I can semi-understand why some people might find the tails off-putting, or why some may not like the threat of being bitten; but then saying that, you have a threat of being bitten by any pet if you hurt/upset it enough and the tails… well they’re easy to get used to after a while.

My original and aptly-named ‘Rat Pack’ consisted of five boys which I semi-rescued from a woman living in Sheffield (luckily for me she agreed to deliver them on the understanding that I’d pay petrol costs). Ranging in age and temperament from about 6 months and almost feral (never been handled) to approximately a year and a half year old love-bug, they quickly stole my heart, particularly after one of them suffered a stroke/severe fall shortly after arriving and so spent three days cuddled in my pocket so I could feed him medicine mixed in yoghurt every two hours.

The downside to caring for rats (or any rodent) however, is their short lifespan which averages at about 2-3 years, so my original rat pack are now all what is known as ‘over the rainbow bridge’ ie) rattie heaven.

Houdini (left) and Pebble. My current babies.

Houdini (left) and Pebble. My current babies.

I do however currently have a very licky, very attention-seeking, very food-orientated pair of boys whose faces I couldn’t resist when visiting Pets at Home last November.

*Saying that, I really do not recommend purchasing any small animal from a Pet store, particularly rats, due to the high risk of health or temperament issues that come from those environments – many pet store rats are bred and treated as snake food. Seriously, if you’re a novice or don’t want to risk having to trust train them, buy from trusted breeders; you’ll be saving yourself a lot of stress and hassle.

Very quickly, Houdini and Pebble came home to live – Pebble, named for the colour of his coat and the way he often sleeps (curled up in a ball as if about to do a forward roll), and Houdini who came by his name for the ridiculous speed in which he managed to escape not one but three of the cases I was expected to carry him home in.

Winning over the hearts of those who are afraid or flat-out dislike rats however, is not an easy task. Historically they’ve been a species cursed with a bad reputation, and counteracting the ‘plague-ridden, aggressive, you-will-die’ stereotype is often a task that meets a lot of resistance. People are comfortable in their own world view and questioning that/showing them that a belief/fear that many have held since childhood is false, isn’t always appreciated unless approached with care.

There are five key strategies that I have tried to take in building and defending ratty reputations. These are:

1. Be authoritative

Communicating strongly and knowledgeably goes a long way to making everyone else believe you understand what you’re talking about and that you’re the leader and authority in your area. Conveying your message with powerful, emotive words as well as with conviction will make you more believable and will make your audience more receptive to your message.

2. Be specific

Your message needs to be clear and easily conveyed. In this case, that’s pretty easy given the simplicity of both the subject and the stance ie) ‘Rat’s are awesome and everyone should love them!’, but in most cases, issues and brands can have more complex, more multi-layered connotations and thus need focused and specific communications to be believed by the recipient audience. It’s no good telling someone how great rats are if you can’t explain to the person why you like them and what makes them a good pet.

3. Be consistent

Being consistent when showing pictures and videos that contest the ‘ewwww gross’ mentality reinforces the message and shows people how loving and playful rats truly are without overcomplicating or confusing the issue.

4. Be honest

Every pet (and brand for that matter) has annoying quirks and habits. Being honest about them (they chew anything rubbery or wooden, and will use your clothes to make nests given half the chance) and admitting the downsides (they can smell if not cleaned regularly) increases your credibility and means that when you talk about the good things, you’re more likely to be believed. Integrity goes a long way after all.

5. Be relentless

Commit yourself to getting the positive message out there. People are inundated with a myriad of messages each day and when it comes to rats – lets be honest – the vast majority are not going to be positive ones. It’s not only critical therefore that you try to stand out amongst the static but equally that you are not forgotten. Follow up with people you’ve had past discussions with to reinforce not only your message but also the relationships you are building.

Overall, I’ve had a lot of success.

I mean it’s hard for people to retain the belief in the evil/disgusting/diseased stereotype when they are faced with the grabby-handed puppy eyes of two very adorable fluffballs.

There are of course going to be a small percentage of people whose opinions will be immovably negative. The RepTrak Alignment Monitor, developed by Cees van Riel for The Reputation Institute, measure employee alignment and contribution to the objectives and performance of an organisation. It suggests that although 10% of employees will automatically respond positively to change and 70% respond given adequate persuasion, 20% will remain consistently negative in their response.

The key I think is making sure to reinforce the positive messages I’m promoting to the 80% majority whilst never giving up on winning over that remaining stubborn 20% to my way of thinking – after all, their stubbornness gives me plenty of opportunities for rodent evangelism on a personal one-on-one basis.